I spent five weeks seriously ill this summer before having my gallbladder out on August 6th. In my attempt to contribute to the library’s preparation for fall (as well as our pending WMS rollout), and given my disgust with daytime tv, I only missed one full week of work, despite the doc telling me to stay home for two. My attitude was, “I can move. It’s not like I do a lot of heavy lifting at work. And it’s not as though there’s not a ton to do.” Turns out, you should listen to your doctor. (No, really. He’s the one with the knife, after all.)
I am very lucky. While I was seriously down and out, my colleagues and friends went grocery shopping for me, offered to walk my rambunctious basset hound, and checked in on me regularly via phone, email, and visits with chicken soup. With continued complications, whereas I expected frustration and annoyance, all I’ve received is support and the expectation that I go home when I need to so I can rest and heal.
This experience has been incredibly frustrating – being sick was not on my calendar. I don’t really have time for it, and I have a ton of other things to do. However, when I run myself down, it takes me longer to do those things. Lesson learned, mostly. Second, this has really made me appreciate my coworkers, and the comfort that a supportive work environment can give. I do not like to miss work – it makes me cranky, frustrated, and fearful that I will be seen as “not a team player” or as lazy. I figure this is a result both of a hardcore blue collar home life (“Are you bleeding from the eyeballs? No? Then you’re well enough to go to school/work”) and of experiences I’ve had at other jobs where when someone took a long vacation, if the place ran decently well while they were gone, they came back to a pink slip. I’m lucky to not work in that sort of environment any more, but it still echoes in my head.
I firmly believe in the need for renewal/sick time for my staff, colleagues, bosses. Life takes a toll. people get sick. People need a refresher. Life can be a sledgehammer sometimes, and it’s not always within our control. I would never hold being sick against someone – not only is it out of their control, it’s a miserable place to be in any case, and I would want them to concentrate on themselves and getting back to healthy. But I have a hard time applying that same acceptance to my own circumstances. With the help of friends and colleagues (nag, nag nag, guys – but I love you!), I’m working on it and trying to find a better balance.
My race to get back to regular life has created some problems with my recuperation, and now I’m re-frustrated that I’ve not healed as well as hoped, and will have some more downtime. As of today, I am working hard to: go home when I need to, instead of waiting until the collapse/dizzy point; not be afraid to ask my boss & colleagues for some slack if my health demands it; accept that sometimes I can’t just gut through it and be fine; accept that sometimes downtime is necessary time. It helps immensely that I work with compassionate and kind people (who have been ordering me to do this since Day 1).
I am working on learning to be sick gracefully, as opposed to hobbling around like Quasimodo trying to get things done before falling apart. If the people I work with are not going to hold being sick against me or be resentful about it, then I should not be holding it against myself. Right?
And so before I continue cracking at my department’s annual report, I am going to take a nap, because I feel terrible and it will still be there when I wake up.